Wilderness Camp again. Why are there so many firsts there?
Anyhow, it was a grey day, raining on and off. The lake was uncharacteristically choppy, and we were all uncharacteristically wearing jackets.
We kids were hanging out at the Community Tarp when my dad came over. “The tarp’s up. I’m going with Russ to help out. It’s a little rough out there.”
Russ was the bronzed and wizened, semi-civilized, sometime-boyfriend of Auntie Joyce. Also, he was the guy who kept the weather eye on Johnson’s Landing, waiting for the tarp to go up so he could go get the people coming to Wilderness. That’s how we operated: Put the tarp up, signal Russ. Pretty cool, huh?
Except these people (Obviously no Wilderness veterans) had put the tarp up in the rain. You don’t put the tarp up in the rain. Ever. It’s rude, plus conditions might be too dangerous for Russ.
But Russ made the call: He was going to go get them, so Dad went, too.
We kids watched the runaround get smaller and smaller, the motor uneven in the grey chops of the lake. We went back to what we were doing, but our hearts weren’t in it. Mine wasn’t, anyhow.
I got it into my head that I would make coffee for my dad when he got back. He drank coffee. Coffee was warm. He was going to want coffee. That was it. I was making coffee.
Did I know how to make coffee? No. I knew it involved water and coffee grounds, and heating them up. Or something. But I didn’t feel comfortable using the campstove without an adult around. And I wasn’t going to go get an adult, because then the adult would run the show. And it was me making coffee for my dad.
So I built a little fire. Adult Liz recognizes that maybe I shouldn’t have been playing with fire without adult supervision. I think I was 12 or something. But whatever. I built a fire, and then on an old grate, balanced some creek water in the coffee pot, into which I had carefully spooned some coffee grounds.
I waited and waited for it to boil. It took forever. How the hell did Ma Ingalls manage, I wondered.
Dad and Russ came back, with the newbies in bedraggled tow. The world was right again.
“Hi, Dad. I made you coffee,” I told him. I poured some gritty, brownish hot water into a melamine cup and handed it to him.
And my dad did the bravest, most heroic thing I have ever seen. He drank the coffee.
When I was older, I apologized to him for that godawful drink. He smiled and shrugged slightly. “It was warm. That’s what counted.”